Luxating Patellas: A Knee Problem in Dogs

by DFS-Pet-Blog on December 13, 2010

Steps can be tough on knees!

Steps can be tough on knees!

The same week Mojito came home with us I made him an appointment with my veterinarian. We had very little background info on Mo, and I strongly suspected he hadn’t had a thorough wellness checkup for far too long, though at least he had current vaccination tags. His teeth didn’t look so good, he was often squinting one eye, and he had terrible skin (all topics for their own blog posts!). Off to the vet we went.

I was very relieved when Mo received a bill of overall good health, with suggestions and solutions for all of his visible problems. What we hadn’t seen symptoms of yet, however, was his luxating patellas – the exotic-sounding technical term for dislocating kneecaps.


Patellar luxation is usually a congenital condition, meaning it may or may not be genetic. The kneecap, or “patella,” is a small disc of bone that moves up and down inside a groove of the femur bone of the hind leg. “Luxating” means the kneecap is moving abnormally outside of this groove. The result is the joint “locking up,” causing limited movement and discomfort until it slides back into place. It’s most common in small and toy breed dogs, and as they get older it can become progressively worse, causing arthritis and potentially requiring corrective surgery.

In Mo’s case, the vet could manually slide the kneecap out of its place and back again, which looked just awful but didn’t seem to cause Mo any pain. The vet had a few questions about his behavior: Did he seem stiff when getting up, or have trouble with stairs? Did he seem to have trouble running, or do any hopping while running? Did he ever hold his hind leg away or back from his body? In all of the cases, Mo’s behavior had so far seemed natural and normal to me, without any of those signs of stress or discomfort.

Joint Care 2

Because there were no immediate symptoms of pain or lameness, the vet said to keep a close eye on him for any changes in behavior or movement, and that it was a great idea to start him on supplements. Having worked on the joint support pages in our catalog more than once, I immediately knew which products were available to help. Now, Mo gets Joint Care 2 every day – either the Granules mixed into his food, or a Chewable as one of his training rewards.

Mo is not a terribly active dog, but we take mile walks a few times a week and go to agility class too. We’re hoping that a moderate amount of exercise and early joint supplementation keep him from being a candidate for surgery down the road, which can not only be very expensive but also have a long, uncomfortable recovery.


If you are getting a dog from a breeder, be sure to ask if there is any history of luxating patellas in the dog’s line. A responsible breeder will test for and avoid this disorder.

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